The distributions are different for IRAs, qualified plans and 403(b) plans.

For IRAs, qualified plans (such as 401(k), money purchase and profit sharing plan), and 403(b) plans, distributions that occur before the participant reaches age 59.5 are subject to the 10% excise tax (early-distribution penalty) unless the participant meets an exception. The lists of exceptions for each of the different plans share some similarities, but there are some differences as well.

Distributions from IRAs are left to the discretion of the IRA owner and can occur at any time. For qualified plans and 403(b) plans, the participant must meet at least one of a list of requirements before he/she can receive distributions from the plan.

For the list of exceptions for IRA distributions, see our IRA tutorial. Also see our tutorials on qualified plans and on 403(b) plans - each one devotes an entire section to distributions.

This question was answered by Denise Appleby
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